With my collection now comprising of a Mega Drive, an N64 and a Gamecube, I had begun building my retro game collection. At this point, I only had a few games for each system and was just buying games to play them, not to collect them. I had no idea how big my collection would get in the coming years….
Soon after buying the Gamecube, my then girlfriend started university in Leeds. It was a tough transition for the first few weeks, but having game consoles really helped me. It helped distract me during the week, then I could go to Leeds on the Friday and return Sunday, just in time to watch that week’s RAW and Smackdown on tape. Looking back, they were some fun days but I’m not sure I could keep up with it all now!
The train ride from Liverpool to Leeds was around two hours fifteen minutes from memory and I wanted something to do in that time. I had started to get heavily into gaming and convinced myself that I should get a games console to pass the time. I had noticed that original Game Boy Advance had been reduced in price with the SP on the way and decided to get one. HMV were selling them for £40 new, so I grabbed one during a trip to the Trafford Centre. (a huge shopping centre/mall in Manchester)
Only problem now was, I had no games for my new Game Boy Advance. I struggled at first to find something I liked – I didn’t really know of the good games for the GBA and was suspicious of it’s licensed poor quality games. My sole initial pick up was a screen magnifier, which was absolutely useless (do they ever work?) My younger cousin lend me a Spiderman game, but after playing a few levels I gave up on it. It was a fairly dull licensed platforming game that I knew wouldn’t hold my attention for two hours.
Given my love of Altered Beast, I even tried the GBA version of Altered Beast. I soon lost interest in Altered Beast: Guardians of the Realm though – it simply had too many levels. Altered Beast, in my opinion, should be a short experience, no more than half an hour. Guardians of the Realm dragged on and on and in the end, I found myself just quietly putting in my drawer and forgetting about it….
So, as I always do, I fell back on wrestling games. I had heard loads about Fire Pro Wrestling and wanted to try it. The sheer amount of wrestlers and Showcase mode, where you could (almost) choreograph a match for audience approval had me intrigued. Therefore, it was a no brainer when I saw Fire Pro Wrestling on eBay for £9.99. I wasn’t disappointed either…Fire Pro had so much depth that I spent the first few weeks of owning it just editing the wrestlers so they had their real-life names and outfits. I had printed out a massive text file from GameFAQs and just sat at home, working through every federation.
I hammered Fire Pro, both on trips to Leeds and to University. The GBA fit perfectly in my leather jacket’s inside pocket and I took it everywhere. I remember playing through the Showcase mode while travelling – I completed the Sports Entertainment challenge with The Rock and the Hardcore challenge with Mr Pogo. Playing as Mr Pogo was great fun, as I could use his sickle or his finisher…the fireball!!! I loved throwing people to the ropes then hitting them with a fireball as they came running back to me!
That Christmas, I got Mario Kart Super Circuit for my GBA and it consumed my travelling time like Fire Pro did. I really liked the way it improved on it’s primary influence (the SNES version of Mario Kart) both visually and in terms of it’d tracks, which were excellent. I played Super Circuit for a long time, beating all the main cups then true to form, giving up on the game after unlocking the Special Cups. It’s a recurring theme with me sadly.
The Game Boy Advance really got me through that second year of university and clocked up quite a few miles between Yorkshire and Merseyside. Unfortunately, the GBA didn’t get to join my retro game collection…I hadn’t played it for a while and was looking for it when I checked my leather jacket’s inside pocket. I had found the GBA, but the screen was cracked, probably from my own carelessness. At the time, I wasn’t too upset – I had a Creative Zen MP3 player that I had been using on my travels. In hindsight though, it’s a sad end for a console that got me through what could have been quite a difficult time.
So Game Boy Advance, I salute you. Thank you for the good times, my friend. Whatever happens, we’ll always have the fireball and Bowser’s Castle 2…